AFLUA Life member Les Koochew umpired in the period when VFL umpires officiating in country leagues were viewed as men to be respected by local players, officials and even supporters both on the field and during many post match celebrations. While he never umpired senior VFL football Les was indeed respected all over Victoria, Southern New South Wales and Tasmania where he represented the VFL with distinction.
Leslie Dalker Koochew was born in Kyneton on 9 July 1923 the son of Wally Koochew, former Carlton Football Cub player and the first ever VFL footballer with Chinese heritage. Les had few memories of his father who died when he was young but was proud of his achievements. It is most likely that Les himself led the way in umpiring ranks as the first ‘man in white’ of Chinese descent.
Speaking to Tony DeBolfo in 2003 Les said, “I believe nationality has nothing to do with football,’ he said. ‘It shouldn’t matter where you’re born or what you look like. It doesn’t mean a thing.” Les began his umpiring career officiating for suburban clubs after his demobilisation from the AIF in 1946. He had spent the previous four years serving in ‘C ‘ Company, the 5th Australian Infanty Battalion. Accepted onto the VFL list of field umpires in 1948 he travelled Victoria for twelve of the next fourteen seasons missing only 1952 and 1954 before his retirement at the conclusion of 1961. He had received Life Membership of the VFLUA the previous year.
The friendships that Les made in umpiring were important and enduring. Only last year when asked his most memorable moment he answered not a Grand Final, not a close game and not a great decision but, “When my umpiring colleagues George Hamid and Frank Leverett journeyed to Bendigo to attend my wedding. It was a great expression of comradeship.” And clearly one that stayed with him throughout his life.
Les Koochew died on 18 March, aged 81 and is survived by his wife Lois and numerous children and grand children. Picture: Les Koochew, proudly displays the May 1908 Carlton team photograph of which his father was a member. Courtesy
http://www.chaf.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ko ochew.htm and Tony De Bolfo.